Moderate Politics from an Extreme Personality

Location: New York City, New York, United States

To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain ever a child. -Cicero ************ Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. -Barry Goldwater

Sunday, March 27, 2005

ANWR photos and articles

Alright, I still do not know how to post photos properly, Shankar please help me. But in the meantime, here are the photos of ANWR that I wanted to post. Carl Bialik from the Wall Street Journal Online Edition writes about how much oil we might get from the proposed ANWR drill site. Don Engebretson states in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Drilling wouldn't be the end of ANWR. But what happens when we run out of oil? Kenneth Deffeyes asks.

Political Correctness Gone Awry in Britain

From the Daily Telegraph. Apparently a hymn about patriotism, sacrifice, suffering and peace is too jingoistic and offensive. Here are the lyrics to "I Vow to Thee My Country":

I vow to thee, my country—all earthly things above—
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago—
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

I got the lyrics from The Cyber Hymnal. And here is the page complete with MIDI.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Rule Britannia, America Rule the English Speaking World

Check out the site of the Expansionist Party of the United States. This is a party that believes the USA should be bigger and not limited to the North American continent. While an American takeover of the entire world does not make sense...............right now, a Union of English Speaking nations would be a great idea. Winston Churchill himself once dreamed of this federation and we can make it happen today. Here is an article on the benefits of union. And here is a followup to the previous article. A plan has even been drawn up to divide the British isles into states. It is time for the mother country to reunite with her prodigal daughter in a house of equals. Our cousins, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and a few of the Carribean islands can join too.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I'm back

Well I am back from Chicago. I was there to attend a discovery program from Loyola School of Law. I also walked along Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile), State Street and visited the Museum Campus (specifically Shedd Aquarium and the Natural History Museum). I had a great time at the program and in Chicago, but there was something missing. I am still considering the school though. I go to visit Catholic University School of Law on April 1st.

Meanwhile on Thursday when I was too drunk, I could not post this article from NRO, which I wanted too. It is a response by Donald Luskin, who also is author of the blog The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid. It was a response to this article written by Paul Krugman. Luskin is right that a $600 billion annual increase in the liabilities of Social Security does not add to the relative burden if the program as long as there is a consistent growth in the GDP. That being said, $600 billion is a lot of money and by finding ways to limit the costs of Social Security we have more flexibility to spend money on other programs or on tax cuts. Republicans are trying to propose solutions for the problems in the Social Security program. Some of these ideas may be bad, some may be good. But instead of just ignoring the issue and claiming there is no problem, why don't Democrats propose some alternatives. For example a minimum income provision, or maybe means testing for certain benefits.

Meanwhile, as for the ANWR issue. Here is a map of the area of the Refuge where drilling is being proposed. I have a picture of bears and other animals playing and nesting near oil pipelines and will post thse pictures as soon as I figure out how to post pics.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Senate approves a half measure on energy policy

I favor drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. The bill would open up about 1.5 million acres of ANWR to oil exploration. This is roughly 7 percent of the entire refuge. While the area of exploration is huge in terms of acreage, the amount of land needed for drilling structures and equipment is much less. This is due to recent developments related to more efficient. as well as enviroment friendly exploration and extraction technologies. Furthermore, the effects of the drilling on the local ecosystem is not an disasterous as some environmentalists claim. Most of the area proposed for exploration is flat tundra land. The development of human structures in the area should affect the local wildlife minimally. Other areas in Alaska have not seen rapid die offs in animal species due to the prescence of oil fields. In fact the warmth generated by the Alaska oil pipeline has caused the animal populations living around it to flourish. I searched Looksmart for an old National Review article written by Jonah Goldberg documenting the effects of oil field development on an area in the Coastal Plain of the North Slope of Alaska. This region of Alaska is where the land proposed for development is located. The article goes into greater detail of the points I have made.

The problem with ANWR drilling is not that it will be environmentally disasterous. The problem is that many Republicans (maybe because they are over selling it) feel that opening up this land to oil exploration will help us significantly with our energy needs. Due to instability in the Middle East and new sources of oil becoming more and more expensive to extract, drilling for more oil is a stopgap. Eventually we will need to develop a cheap alternative to petroleum. Oil is not renewable and finding other sources for our energy needs now is preferable to waiting until we face a real crisis. The world could reach peak oil production soon. Instead of opposing oil drilling in ANWR, Democrats and environmentalists would do better to compromise and support drilling in exchange for higher fuel efficiency for cars and more funding for alternative energy research.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Business World, My decision on Bolton

Well today Bernie was convicted of an assorted amount of crimes and faces up to 85 years in jail. Read all about it here. Also a new book on Enron (which makes this what? Number 63?) is out in the stores and Salon has written a review of it. Kenny boy claims he knew nothing (nothing!!!), and the author seems to concur!!!??? Yeah, sure Kenny Boy, you were only the CEO. I mean Lay was picked to be CEO of a major energy company (it used to be a major energy company). Furthermore he held executive positions at a few other energy companies before Enron, so he was obviously competent. He has a PhD in Economics, so he is obviously not stupid. The fact that he signed off on all those balance sheets and did not do any due diligence is criminally negligent in itself. At least I think so anyway, maybe it technically isn't, I am no expert on white collar crime. Well this is why I am going to law school soon. Thank you Lay, Ebbers, Fastow, Skilling etc. You turned a wealth hungry devotee of the absolute rectitude of markets, a heartless capitalist, into an advocate of more active government regulation and supervision. You turned a future corporate lawyer into someone who wants to work for the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meanwhile, I have finally made a decision concerning John Bolton. I am against his nomination. The UN ambassador should be a diplomat and Bolton is lacking in diplomacy. Sidney Blumenthal goes into some reasons I do not support Bolton. His past connections to Jesse Helms being one of them. I mean it is not like I disagree with him on everything. He is right, the ABM Treaty is useless now that we are no longer living in a bipolar world threatened with mass nuclear annihilation. And his strong condemnations of Kim Jong Il and the hardline he advocates against the North Korean regime is praiseworthy. However an individual who has nothing but contempt for the UN should not be the UN Ambassador. Contempt you say? Yeah, like saying that if he could restructure the UN today the US would be the only Security Council member. Or that there is no such thing as the United Nations, that if it fell apart tomorrow nothing would be affected. I don't agree with everything the UN does (or doesn't do) but I still have respect for it as an institution. Bolton does not seem to.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Some Ideas for SS Reform

Rich Lowry outlines some ideas from a number of Republicans on how to reform the Social Security system.

James from has posted a pretty good article on Chile's pension system. It is from CBS of all places.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Case for the Galactic Empire

Well I just watched the trailer for the new Star Wars movie, and it looked so cool. It came on right after the OC and believe me, it was even worth sitting through an hour of that dreck. In fact, I suspect the trailer is better than the actual movie. Anyway to commemorate this event (and because I am still undecided about the John Bolton nomination), I have posted this classic article making the case for the Galactic Empire. I always did like them better.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The John Bolton Nomination

Here is an article on the nomination of John Bolton as the new Amabassador to the UN. It is written by UPI correspondent Martin Walker, who incidentally is the author of one of my favorite books on the Cold War (entitled appropriately enough Cold War). I am inclined to support the Bolton nomination despite some of the criticisms he has faced from many Democrats. I will elaborate on this topic a bit more later. I am too tired right now.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"Family" Values

Here is an article from salon (an article you can't refuse to read) about the mafia and how it affects and reflects our culture. Go and read it, capice???!!!!

Also please check out my friend Marion Shah's new blog, The Conservative Realist. Good Stuff. Marion is a relatively moderate conservative, her husband Nimit Shah is a right wing extremist though ;).

Monday, March 07, 2005

Washington Square News on Blogging

Woohoo, my old friend, fellow blogger and former lab partner Shaun McElhenny has written a WSN (NYU Student Paper) article on blogging, and ClassicaliberalConservative is quoted in it too. So are fellow bloggers Michael Phillips, Roger Thoman, Benjiman Harrision and Neil Shah.

The Debate on Social Security Intensifies

Fellow blogger and NYU person Neil Shah has written a response to my last post on the Social Security issue. Neil basically calls me an idiot for being in favor of Social Security privatization. This could be a situation where we are both right. I know I am right about Social Security ;). Anyway here is my response to his post:

Hi Neil.
Thank you for your response to my post. It has given me a lot to think about. Although my argument was not neatly constructed (hey I had just woken up when I wrote it), the main point of my post (which you missed) is that I feel the left wing in this country has this unreasonable fear of our nation’s securities markets. Introducing private accounts is a good thing. It will help create wealth, encourage national saving and strengthen the long term viability of the system. I have no interest in transforming Social Security into non existence. I have every interest in seeing it upgraded to something that will benefit the American public.
You wrote about the similarities between the purposes of an insurance company and the Social Security program. If that is so, then why not let individuals invest the SS money in real assets instead of theoretical government IOUs? If insurance companies trust investing in the securities markets to meet their long term obligations, I see no reason why Social Security cannot do the same. I also dispute your claim that the Social Security system was “fixed” back in 1983. But I will speak more of that on my own blog. Contrary to the title of your post, privatization of Social Security makes a lot of sense.

Contrary to the claims of the left, Social Security is not doing fine. During the 1990s many Democrats spoke of impending problems in Social Security funding, Bill Clinton included. Commission after commission of Democrats and Republicans called for changes and reforms to the program, including introducing private elements to the program. The fact is, American demographics have changed since 1933. In 1950, there was a ratio of 16 workers to pay the benefits of 1 reitree. Currently there are 3 workers for each retiree and soon that ratio will go down further. If the ratio goes down, then benefits must either decrease or taxes must go up. In fact, taxes have already gone up a few times. I fear the effect of an additional increase on payroll taxes will have on job creation. Not only have demographics changed, so has society. Securities markets and the banking system were only slightly less than chaotic when SS was first created. We had a Depression to prove it. Now we have an SEC (which is underfunded but still pretty effective), we have regulatory authories and we have a public much more aware of and responsive to investing. We also have a proliferation of investment and saving vehicles: 401ks, IRAs, Annuities etc. And many individuals rely much more on that for their retirement than they do on Social Security. For many people, SS has become a supplemental income for retirement, not their primary source of income. Yes, minimal income provisions must be made for the less fortunate and some protection is needed to dampen the effects of capital market volatilty. But privatization, if done right, will be a net benefit to the country.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Today on Meet the Press

Today on Meet the Press, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said that Republican efforts to privatize Social Security will result in the end of Social Security as an insurance program. Well currently, Social Security does not run itself like any insurance company that I know of. When insurance companies collect premiums, they don't spend the money and then write up future obligations that the firms owe to themselves. If any company did do that, the executives would all end up in prison. So what do insurance companies do with their premium money? Believe it or not folks, they invest them in the debt and equity markets. That's right folks, they INVEST the money in the SECURITIES MARKETS. So how would Social Security be less an insurance system if we privatize it? Social Security was created in the 1930s when we faced a much different world than we do today. It is time that we update Social Security for the 21st Century. Hey Democrats, do it for the children.

Friday, March 04, 2005

More on Social Security....Later

I am sober tonight, but I am not in the mood to write anything too much. Therefore I will write a bit and add more to this post and update it later. First, I will address the Slate article about how us proponents of privitization are too confident about a 7 percent per year return on equities. First of all, the 7 percent the figure is the rate of real return. The nominal rate of return unadjusted for inflation is assumed to be around 10 percent for a portfolio of broadly diversified equities. Why is the nominal rate of return important? Because the purpose of a personalized social security account is to save for a comfortable retirement, not to yield the highest real return one can get. The ownership of assets is a protection against inflation. Equity prices rise with inflation and the privitization of Social Security will insure that an individual's retirement is uninhibited by rising price levels. Anyway, an annual real return of 7 percent on $1000 invested for 40 years comes to a little less than $15,000. Invest $1000 per year for forty years and one can build a relatively comfortable retirement. I mean, you won't get $15,000 for every year you work, but you can live comfortably.

Besides, I believe that the real and nominal rates mentioned by Daniel Gross, in his articles are much lower than what they should be. According to the textbook from my Financial Management class, the a portfolio from the S&P 500 (500 largest companies in terms of total market value) yields an average nominal return of 13 percent with a standard deviation of around 20 percent. Meanwhile a portfolio of the smallest 20 percent of companies traded on the NYSE yields an average nominal return of 17 percent with a standard deviation of 33 percent. A portfolio of investment grade corporate bonds will result in an average return of 6 percent with a standard deviation of 9 percent. And yes in some years the market does have negative returns. However, in general the trend has been positive. If equity markets are consistently negative, we'll have a lot of problems to worry about, including paying off benefits under the current system. Besides, average returns represent an average. In some years returns are much higher and in some years they are lower, they might even be negative. But in general equities are relatively safe from inflation and mutual funds are safe from firm specific risk. I believe few advocates of privitization think that individuals should be able to invest in non diversified stocks.

Another argument made against privitization is the fact that someone could retire during a market downturn. This is a concern, as is any market downturn but it is not as if an individual's portfolio will remain the same for their entire lives. When one reaches retirement, their is little chance that an individual will lose his entire savings to a market crash. If you are five years from retirement, you invest in more liquid and safer securities like T-Bills, CDs or Commercial Paper. Oh and for the writer who said that he was too lazy to invest for his retirement, he deserves to live a miserable retirement eating cat food. Okay, that might be too harsh, but honestly, how hard is it to do a little research and pick out a mutual fund.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Much more on Social Security

Well, this seems to be the big issue right now and so I need to comment more on it. But I can only go into more detail when I become much more sober. Right now, it is hard for me to form a logical coherent argument on the subject. See tonight, I attended and got drunk at a left wing gathering, so that I could meet and get my copy of Other People's Money signed by the book's beautiful author Nomi Prins. She is much more gorgeous in person too. Anyway, in the meantime here are two Slate articles that make the case against privatization. One is by Thomas Geohegan, who thinks picking out a Mutual Fund is too stressful, and the other is by Daniel Gross, who doubts the 7 percent per year average return that is predicted for a private invested account. Anyway, I am too drunk to present the right side on this right now. Stay tuned tomorrow, when I will be sober......hopefully.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

An Honest Look at Elliot Spitzer

Great article from the Weekly Standard about the man likely to be the next governor of New York. I like Elliot Spitzer and agreed with the way he dealt with the abuses in the securities industry. However like those he prosecuted, Spitzer's actions are also filled with the occasional conflict of interest ie the use of his position to solicit contributions and help out his associates or at the very least the appearance of it. Furthermore the politicization of the "investor class" has the potential to be a mixed blessing. More on that later.